Claudication is pain in your thigh, calf, or buttocks that happens when you walk. It can make you limp. It may be a symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD). This is when narrowed or blocked arteries reduce the blood flow to your legs.
At first, claudication pain occurs when you walk a certain distance and goes away when you rest. But as the disease gets worse, the pain can occur when you walk shorter distances. Over time, you may no longer be able to walk because the pain is so severe.
Claudication is linked to health conditions that also increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. So you should be checked and possibly treated for artery disease in other parts of the body.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is very common, mainly in people over age 50. PAD is caused by narrowed or blocked arteries in the legs or in the body’s main artery (the aorta). This can reduce blood flow to muscles in your calf, thigh, or buttocks. This decreased blood flow may cause the pain that leads to claudication.
The blockage usually happens because of narrowed and hardened arteries (atherosclerosis). This is caused by plaque build-up inside the arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood. This plaque build-up can also affect your heart arteries. It can lead to chest pain or a heart attack.
Blockages in the leg are most common in the thigh and behind the knee. But they can also occur in other parts of the body such as the aorta, groin, or belly. You can have more than 1 blockage.
Risk factors for claudication are the same as those for hardened arteries (atherosclerosis). They include:
Claudication is a symptom of a narrowing or blockage of an artery.
Typical symptoms of claudication include:
Pain when you are resting is a sign that your blocked arteries have become worse.
Claudication symptoms may look like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis focuses on finding narrowed arteries in your legs. Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and give you an exam. You may also have tests such as:
Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you based on:
Claudication is often first treated by making lifestyle changes. This can reduce your risk factors for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Medicine and surgery may be needed in some cases. Treatment may include:
In severe cases, blood flow may be fully or almost fully blocked. Then a procedure or surgery may be needed. This may include:
In very rare cases, if all other treatments have not worked, the leg may need to be removed (amputated). People who smoke or who have diabetes are at increased risk for amputation.
Hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) that cause claudication in your legs can also affect the blood vessels in your heart and brain. For this reason, it is very important to reduce your risk factors for atherosclerosis. This can help prevent claudication as well as heart attack and stroke.
You can reduce your risk factors by:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, call your healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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